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Journal of Failure Analysis and Prevention

, Volume 11, Issue 6, pp 645–653 | Cite as

Industry Updates

Article

Tiny Robots Could Monitor Underground Reactor Pipes

As workers continue to grapple with the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan, the crisis has shone a spotlight on nuclear reactors around the world. Harry Asada, the Ford Professor of Engineering in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and director of MIT’s d’Arbeloff Laboratory for Information Systems and Technology, says one of the major challenges for safety inspectors is identifying corrosion in the underground pipes of a reactor. Currently, plant inspectors use indirect methods to monitor buried piping: generating a voltage gradient to identify areas where pipe coatings may have corroded, and using ultrasonic waves to screen lengths of pipe for cracks. The only direct monitoring requires digging out the pipes and visually inspecting them—a costly and time-intensive operation.

Asada and his colleagues at the d’Arbeloff Laboratory are working on a direct monitoring alternative: small, egg-sized robots designed...

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